The Highbower Chronicle

Into the Wilderness

Chapter 02 - In which the party contends with nature

After spending the night with the Crimson Coats, the party awoke to prepare for their journey.

Chester returned to the city to follow up with the prisoners whose execution they had delayed and to ensure their case would be handled properly in his absence. While there, he used his

Upon speaking to the accused, he came to learn that they were once workers in Dandyn Wroth’s factory. When they accidentally learned of the half-orc imprisoned in the factory basement, they were arrested and false charges were fabricated against them. They expressed concern that even if acquitted, that they would need to flee the city to be truly safe. With his best assurances, Chester promised to do his best to see them freed and safe.

Regi and Vlad were left with the question of what to do with the deed Regi had “found” in the pocket of the Wyrmblooded goon they’d encountered a few days prior. It belonged to a plot of land about 15 miles outside the city. After some discussion, they concluded that as they do not live near the city nor intend to stay, that they would gift the property to Ander’s mother, Astrid. Besides, Regi reasoned – her soup was pretty good! With a flourish and a crack of his knuckles, Regi put quill to paper and affixed the name Astrid Mason to the deed. Ander and Haythia were visibly pleased with this arrangement, truly happy to know she would be raised up from her squalor, and hopefully safe from any trouble that may come of the turmoil between the guilds of Highbower.

The four of them took a trip to visit the property and found a farmhouse and stable, with a large field and several horses. They were greeted by a middle-aged balding man and his son. They were family of horse breeders – serfs tied to the land. There were roughly a dozen family members of working age. The father was not terribly surprised to see that the land had been sold, and didn’t bother to ask too many questions.

The idea that the family was bound in service did not set well with Ander or Chester. After some amount of discussion, they reached an agreement – In exchange for continued protection, the family would make payments and eventually be granted their own piece of the property. Chester made plans to draw up the Writ of Emancipation at a later time. For now, they took four horses (with Chester and Regi sharing one mount) in lieu of the first few payments.

The group returned to Highbower to finish out their affairs. Ander returned to his mother’s home to give her the good news. She was overjoyed, and burst into tears. He told her that he had come upon it in his adventures, and in her joy she pried no further. Ander left to say goodbye to his boss, and his fellow courier, Irvine Manyhats. He urged Ander to buy some of his “halfling charms” which he claimed would surely protect Ander on his travels. He took a few, but declined the “magical hybrid” mule. Ander returned to his mother’s with a wagon, and set about packing her meager belongings.

When the party had finished gathering additional provisions, they met Haythia at the gate, smoking a pipe as she waited. They set off toward the Vaulted Marches, taking time to deliver Astrid and her things to her new home.

The first few days of travel were simple. They made do sneaking apples from farmers’ trees, or playing music and making household repairs in exchange for food and lodging. Their third day led them into a forest. The only easy path through was still dense and woody enough to necessitate dismounting to walk the horses through and avoid injury. As they made their way through the forest, Haythia’s keen senses alerted her to the presence of someone lurking in the bushes ahead – a clear ambush. She informed her collagues of the danger, and they slowed slightly. As Haythia made an attempt to form a plan with her companions, Ander jumped astride his horse, riding it quickly down the forest path. The others quickly followed suit, taking off through the woods. The attackers were startled and were not quick enough to spring their trap or to catch them. A frustrated spear flew harmlessly after them as they rode off, but not before Chester made a show of sending back an acidic burst to splash against it.

Once safely away from the ambushers, the five prepared to make camp. They started a fire, and Ander foraged for food, finding nuts and berries to supplement their trail rations. During their evening meal, a colorful bird appeared, catching their attention. To their surprise, it spoke aloud with a message for Chester: the legal case against the three innocents was being handled and was going well. When the bird had delivered its message it flitted off and Chester took the time to explain his involvement in their care. They made little small talk as they prepared to bed down for the evening. It happened that Haythia had been the only among them to bring a bedroll to sleep on; the others huddled near her, Ander with his back against a large log.

In the night, Haythia was awoken by some strange sounds. They were coming from near Ander and his belongings. In the low light, she could bear-ly make out the form of a large black beast rummaging through his pack. She paw-sed to let her eyes adjust, and soon she could see the juvenile black bear, searching through Ander’s pack for food. Trying her best to be quiet, she set about waking up her companions gently to alert them to the grizzly intruder. First, she woke Ander, then Regi, but stumbled on waking Vlad and accidentally struck him hard in the face. Luckily, Vlad avoided startling the creature with his cry. Ander brought his crossbow to bear and aimed it at the beast, urging it to move along. It appeared to recognize the device as a hunter’s implement and shuffled on its way, sufficiently deterred. The party returned to sleep, and the rest of the night was spent without fur-ther incident.

[More to come!]

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